DOT adds signs after crashes near Beltline construction

Yahara River Bridge project aims to fix 'failing' bridge joints
DOT adds signs after crashes near Beltline construction

Transportation Department crews are adding warning signs in response to several crashes near a Beltline bridge construction project.

Crews have put plywood on the bridge’s underside as part of the roadwork, which involves repairing joints that DOT officials called “rapidly failing.” The project started in early June and is scheduled to continue until September.

In order to maintain three lanes of traffic in both directions and avoid backups, the Transportation Department will continue to use a “contra-flow” lane.

“It has been done in other states, but it’s never been done in our area,” said Curt Neuhauser, the project manager. “Without it, we would have traffic backed up all the way to (Interstate 39/90) and beyond.”

When approaching in the westbound lanes of the Beltline, or U.S. 12/18, drivers have the option of using two convention right-hand lanes or switching to the other side of the bridge in the “contra-flow” lane.

WISC-TV witnessed a crash and other vehicle issues near the construction Tuesday, and there have been several since the traffic shift started, Neuhauser said.

The DOT is adding message boards, warning drivers to stay in their lanes and drive the posted speed limit.

Drivers planning to exit at South Towne Drive should use the right-hand lanes, because it’s very difficult to merge toward the exit from the “contra-flow” lane, he said.

DOT adds signs after crashes near Beltline construction

Some people grumbled about the roadwork, while others said the lane change was necessary to fix a concern under the bridge.

“I suppose they’ve got to do what they can to get the bridge done,” said Jerry Schmudlach of Monona. “It’s summer so you just accept (the construction).”

Jovenus Price-Pierce compared the “contra-flow” lane to an express lane in Chicago.

“It’s very confusing,” she said, as she stopped at a Monona gas station. “It’s good to know the ‘back way.'”

The “contra-flow” lane will continue until the project’s scheduled completion in September, although eastbound lanes will start using it in several weeks when westbound work is finished.

The bridge joint repairs are necessary because salt applications in winter have rusted necessary parts, Neuhauser said.